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Mountain of Hope: Texas Oncology Staff Hikes to Fight Multiple Myeloma

July 24, 2019

In support of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), Texas Oncology’s own Dana Rosencranz, Ph.D., DABR, of Texas Oncology–Paris, Greenville, and Texas Oncology–Mount Pleasant Patty & Bo Pilgrim Cancer Center and Nayyar Syed, M.D., of Texas Oncology–Mount Pleasant Patty & Bo Pilgrim Cancer Center, Mt. Vernon, and Winnsboro recently hiked Mount Washington, in New Hampshire, to raise awareness and funds for myeloma research. Hear about the unique experience from their perspective:

With a total of 22 hikers, the Moving Mountains team covered more than 4,000 feet of elevation gain on their journey.

What was your motivation for doing this hike?

Dana: I’ve loved mountains all my life. There are few feelings as rewarding as reaching the summit after such a physical hardship, and that journey greatly parallels the challenge of going through cancer. When one is diagnosed with cancer, they find themselves at the bottom of this imaginary mountain – crushed, overwhelmed, and scared of the challenging "hike" of chemotherapy, radiation, and tests. It takes courage, strength, faith, and hope to put one step in front of the other and climb the mountain that is a cancer diagnosis. Once at the top, though, the feeling of survivorship is unlike any other. So, I did this hike in the name of all my cancer patients, my family members that went through cancer, my support group members, and my friend Cindy Martin who is actively fighting multiple myeloma. 

Nayyar: We all do whatever we can for our patients inside the clinics. I wanted to take that experience outside, working alongside them during this physical endeavor. In hiking the mountain, I wanted to experience what a cancer patient feels during their journey and all the difficulties that lie in front of them – and the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment at the summit.

What was the most difficult part of the hike? Most awesome aspect of the hike?

Dana: The final leg of the hike to the summit was the most difficult. I’m not ashamed to say I crawled, and I used muscles that I had no idea that I had, but I loved every second of it. 

I found myself calling out my patients’ names, dedicating each step for a different patient of mine. That helped me to take my mind off the exhaustion and instead focus on what they have gone through – and still are experiencing on their cancer journey. The assistance from the tour guides along the way had an emotional impact for me as well, because I know there are many times where our patients hit walls and lose the motivation to continue. The guide’s stretched out hand felt reminiscent of the countless cancer support groups, staff, family, and friends that strive to support our patients during their journey.

Nayyar: This hike presented countless challenges along the way, but reaching the summit was more exhilarating than I expected.

Nayyar Syed, M.D. (left) and Dana Rosencranz, Ph.D., DABR (right) as they reached the summit of Mount Washington, helping raise nearly $60,000 for research.

Why is funding for multiple myeloma research important? What new breakthroughs are on the horizon?

Dana: MMRF has played a key role in the progress made against multiple myeloma, and experiences like this help accelerate the development of next-generation treatments. This hike raised nearly $60,000 to benefit MMRF, and they are well-known for ensuring that 90 percent of the funding is directly distributed to research for multiple myeloma.

Nayyar: Myeloma is not alone in its need of research funding. I would love to see foundations for other malignancies create events like this, and I would gladly participate. When it comes to new treatments of myeloma, there is so much to be excited about. I look forward to more targeted therapies, particularly those utilizing CAR-T cell.

Why was this experience so meaningful for you as a cancer fighter?

Dana: I’ve never hiked with such a large group before. Every single one of the people there had a personal connection with cancer. Yes, hiking a mountain path is automatically a beautiful thing, but hiking next to 22 hearts that are doing this for such an amazing cause makes the whole experience that much more powerful. It was an honor to be part of this group and make friends for life on this journey, and I cannot wait for the next hike.

Nayyar: This hike was a rare experience, challenging me physically and mentally. Overall, it allowed me to see things from a different perspective and to be closer to my patients and their journeys.

 


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